Saving Soft Skills: Behind The Scenes of TEDx

Soft skills are defined as the ability to communicate and work well together.

My TEDx Talk focuses on saving soft skills from extinction by practicing active listening and communicating more effectively with others.

The lead up to the TEDx event is like no other.

Here’s a behind the scenes look:

I was invited to be a TEDx Speaker less than 3 months before the TEDx Event.

I live in the greater Los Angeles area while the TEDx Event was in Oahu, Hawaii (TEDxLaie to be exact) so my first task was to book a flight.

My family is most important to me, so including my wife and two kids on the trip was non-negotiable. Fortunately we have a place to stay in Honolulu, so after we secured our flight and rental car, the major pieces were reserved.

Only one problem: how are we going to pay for this?

The Process

After receiving tremendous support from friends it lifted a huge financial burden off our shoulders.

Now it was time to focus on creating, memorizing and performing the TEDx Talk.

I committed to practice writing, refining or rehearsing my TEDx Talk daily up to the event.

A month from the date (2/20/20), I scheduled a couple of rehearsals to put some pressure on myself.

In public speaking, soft skills determine how well you connect with the audience.

The feedback I got through practicing is: you know the information, but it sounds robotic.

Being a TEDx Speaker is a honor and nerve racking at the same time (I’ll share more about that later).

I was so concerned about reciting the information I became disconnected with the emotional impact of the message.

Soft skills are about how you say something, more than what you’re saying.

I’ve never prepared for a talk of this magnitude before, so it was uncharted territory for me.

Prior to the TEDx Event, I decided to focus on speaking so my mindset and skill set needed to evolve.

The TEDx Event

Fast forward to 2/20/20.

Behind the scenes, a TEDx Event is very different from the speaker’s perspective. What you see on the recording is a contrast from the actual live experience.

I arrived early. There were technical difficulties. TEDx Speakers are focused on trying to get in the zone.

Since I spoke in the first group, there wasn’t much time to think.

The nerves 10 minutes before I went on stage were like none other I’ve felt.

Fortunately, the two speakers who went before me performed well so I visualized myself doing the same.

Once it was my turn, all the preparation came down to one moment.

I started off roughly. Within the first minute my mind went completely blank. Instantly, I panicked.

My first thought was to look for my wife in the audience for moral support.

But in the moment I remembered advice a fellow TEDx Speaker, “If you mess up, don’t try to catch yourself. Instead, ask to restart from the beginning.”

So that’s what I did. And I found my momentum.

Speaking to an audience is easier than rehearsing in front of one person.

The spotlight of the TEDx Stage is blinding. I found myself attempting to make eye contact with individuals while avoiding the bright beam of light.

My talk was over in 11 minutes.

All the hours of preparation were over within an hour of arriving at the TEDx Event.

What I Learned

I felt accomplished and relieved at the same time.

We planned for the TEDx Event to be in the middle of our family trip so half of the time could be spent on getting acclimated/prepared and the other half for relaxing after it concluded.

To this day I thought I would feel different as a TEDx Speaker, but I don’t.

It’s great to have the experience and nice to have on my resume, but it was a blip on our trip.

The irony is: I wouldn’t have run a Go Fund Me campaign if I was invited earlier (we needed a way to pay for the expenses)

Turns out the biggest blessing of being a TEDx Speaker has more to do with the support our family received than the honor of performing on the TEDx Stage.

Don’t get it twisted, it was an experience of a lifetime, but the timing was impeccable.

I am more thrilled my wife and kids experienced our best family vacation yet than the distinction of being a TEDx Speaker.

Soft skills are about the process; the journey involved.

Context is Key

In one of my examples during the talk I introduced Larry Kimura.

Kimura is a native of Hawaiian decent and his mission is: to save the Hawaiian language from extinction.

He made it his personal mission to teach Hawaiian culture by co-founding the Punana Leo Preschools.

Based on his efforts, as of 2016 there were 2,000 students enrolled and 18,000 native Hawaiian speakers listed.

That’s a 360% increase from the 1950’s!

One man’s effort produced a monumental impact.

One of the coolest moments for me was contacting Larry to ask for permission to use a photo of him in my talk because only copyrighted photos can be shown on stage.

tedxlaie larry kimura

Closing Reflection

When you view the TEDx recording, it’s more polished than it was live.

Behind the scenes, the work and details go unnoticed.

Overall it was a once in a lifetime experience and I’m thankful to the TEDxLaie organizer, Cody Barney, for trusting me on the TEDx Stage.

But in the end, what I’ll remember the most is the time my family spent together exploring the island.

Memories don’t have a price tag.

No matter what opportunities stem from being a TEDx Speaker, the behind the scenes experiences were the harmony of this soft skills ensemble.

tedxlaie saving soft skils from extinction

Introvert, Introvert Leadership, Introvert Workplace

5 Traits That Make Great Introvert Leaders

Introverted leaders are overlooked. Society favors extroverts in leadership roles, but introvert leaders can be very effective within organizations.

Introverted leaders may not be as charismatic as extroverted leaders, but here’s 5 reasons why introverts make great leaders:

1. They Go Deep 

Introvert leaders want to get to know the people under their care.

They value depth over breadth. Quality over quantity.

Most introvert leaders have a small circle of close friends personally so they’re not as interested in being the life of the party in work situations.

Introverted leaders are interested in understanding people on their team so they can place them in positions that fit.

Relationships matter to introvert leaders so connecting with teammates precedes high performance. Introvert leaders know people work harder for leaders they actually like and respect.

Chances are if you have an introverted leader, you trust them.

Introverts as leaders invest in their people and it has a direct impact on productivity. Your favorite leader makes you feel valued. A strong relational connection is a trademark of introverts as leaders.

2. They Develop Strong Teams

There is a difference between leadership and leadership development that introverted leaders discern.

Leadership can be viewed as strong individuals while leadership development is more about creating strong teams.

One advantage introvert leaders possess is their willingness to use servant leadership.

Introverted leaders eagerly highlight their teammate’s accomplishments. They are perfectly content planning behind the scenes.

Leadership can inflate your ego, but introverts as leaders do well at focusing on the team winning over individual accolades.

True leadership is about succession.

Introvert leaders are natural coaches who take interest in developing people under them. That means managing your ego to take responsibility for team mistakes and deferring praise to your teammates in victory.

The goal of leadership development is to raise up new leaders.

Introvert leadership is rooted in growing others so they can take over your role. Introverted leaders take pride in working themselves out of a job because their heir is ready to step up.

Introverted leaders serve first, then lead.

3. They Are Introspective 

The best leaders in any industry are self-aware.

Introverted leaders usually have a solid EQ (emotional intelligence) which translates to great interpersonal skills.

Introverted leaders are also introspective. They examine their own thoughts and feelings before others.

Post self-reflection, introvert leaders teach others how to be introspective also.

This type of modeling is a good coaching technique. The most effective way to learn a new skill is to teach it.

Introvert leaders show by example before instructing people to do the same.

Introverted leaders are process-oriented and purposeful in their actions. Being introspective means questioning and evaluating why tasks are repeated.

Asking the right questions is a strength of introverts as leaders.

Introvert leaders are intentional. There’s always a reason why you do something.

Pausing and reflecting is time consuming, yet a way to work smarter not harder.

4. They Are Good Listeners 

Introvert leaders listen before they speak.

Communication isn’t just talking. It’s observing people’s body language and responding to their emotions.

The reason why most people trust introverts as leaders is because they feel heard.

When your ideas are validated it shows empathy and understanding towards the speaker.

Leadership is getting things done through people.

Without people following you’re not a leader. Introverted leaders allow people to be part of the vision moving forward. Getting the buy-in from your team happens when multiple voices are valued.

A pillar of introvert leadership is grounded in consensus over power.

That means the leader will often choose what’s voted for over what he/she thinks is best at times because people take ownership when they have a say in decisions made.

Good listening in leadership makes people feel they belong on your team.

Introvert leaders lead by opening their ears before their mouth.

5. They Manage Their Energy 

Introverted leaders drain energy while interacting with people. They need to recharge between meetings.

Introvert leaders rest between social function so they are refreshed for the next one.

In fact, most introverted leaders act as situational extroverts at events.

The behaviors between introverts and extroverts can look the same publicly, but privately introverts desire to recharge alone.

There is an inner confidence that introverts as leaders display in scenarios of competence.

Leadership doesn’t have to be loud visually to make an impact.

Similar to how yelling at a baby when they are crying doesn’t work, raising your volume doesn’t equate to better results.

Regardless of style preference introverted leaders need to be themselves.

Copying other leaders doesn’t work in the long run.

Don’t believe negative stereotypes about introvert leaders.

They can make a loud impact in a quiet way.

Introvert Workplace

7 Career Tips For Successful Introverts At Work

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You can be a successful introvert at work if you know what game to play. Society gives the upper hand to extroverts, but the following 7 tips for career success will change your outcome:

1. Are you approachable?

Successful introverts at work are self-aware of their body language. Making eye contact, good posture and a confident hand shake go a long way in building credibility. 93% of communication is non-verbal. 55% is body language. If those stats don’t convince you, I don’t know what will.

A helpful tip for introverts is to be aware and refine the way you present yourself in work situations. Look people in the eye, stand up straight and initiate handshakes. You are approachable by being proactive in meeting/greeting others.

2. Be a great listener.

Successful introverts leverage their emotional intelligence (EQ). The foundation of strong communication is great listening skills. Listening means you care. It is the best way to show empathy towards people. Be known as a trusted confidant.

Want to succeed as an introvert at work? Make your boss look good. This happens through listening and taking instruction. You may not agree with your supervisor’s take on everything, but he/she can help you climb the corporate ladder faster than any other method.

3. Start conversations, don’t end them.

A successful introvert is social. You don’t need to be the life of the party, but also don’t be a conversation killer. Introverts are naturally great listeners so enhance the experience by asking open-ended questions. You’d be surprised how people’s perception of you changes when feeling heard.

It takes effort to work up the energy to converse, but the investment is worth the cost. An introvert at work is happiest when surrounded by people they enjoy being around. This happens when you are contributing to the dialogue. Push yourself to lengthen a conversation. It is a skill that is mastered over practice.

4. Learn to be a situational extrovert.

A successful introvert knows how to turn on the switch. For example, one of the reasons I host monthly events is it forces me to meet new contacts. Introverts exhaust more energy in social situations, but remember there is plenty of time to recover afterwards.

Here’s a tip for introverts: treat opportunities to meet people as the beginning. Instead of trying to meet as many people as you can, focus on getting to know a few people and following up later. Relationships build over time. In the moment people are only going to remember their interaction with you. If you don’t initiate conversations, you’re easily forgotten.

5. Build your network.

Expanding from my last point successful introverts invest in relationships. It is more about who you know than what you know. As an introvert at work, think quality over quantity.

What has helped me over time is shifting networking as a goal to a part of my lifestyle. It is easy to look at your network as a task, but more helpful to see it as growing your inner circle.

Some helpful tips for introverts wanting to build their network: grab coffee, meet at an event, set up a phone call, eat a meal together, go for a walk with them. Be creative with how you engage with others. Just make it a priority to do it consistently.

6. Leverage your personal strengths. 

If you want to be a successful introvert at work identify your strengths. The best way to add value to any organization is to know where to best contribute. Don’t know what your strengths are? Take the StrengthsFinder test.

Your top 5 strengths won’t disqualify you for any job. Instead they help you know “how” to optimize your role daily. Most likely an introvert at work will bring more positive attention his/her way by what he/she does, not says. You have the greatest room for growth in your areas of strength, not weakness. Figure out what you do well and do more of it.

7. Volunteer for leadership positions.

To be a successful introvert you must have leadership experience. An entrepreneur gets better by starting a business. A parent gets better by caring for a child. You become a better leader by leading others.

Leadership isn’t exclusively public speaking, charisma and titles. As an introvert at work you can be strong leader by: listening to people’s opinions, bridging the gap between conflict/miscommunication, facilitating meetings, empowering and mentoring others.

Successful introverts develop their leadership style over time. Being self-aware, knowing your strengths and building strong relationships set a solid foundation moving forward. Leadership is not a destination, but a journey. You can always learn and refine yourself. The most important part is to ask and take advantage of opportunities.

To become a successful introvert at work you have to be willing to build the skills that propel you for advancement in the professional world. Do that by stepping out of your comfort zone and embracing the list mentioned above.

Career success as an introvert isn’t elusive. It’s about knowing which rules to play within the game. Have fun with it!

Let me know your thoughts and if we missed any tips add them to comments section below.